Free-Roaming Felines: How You Can Help a Community or Feral Cat

In many communities, a feral cat becomes a community cat when several neighbors band together to care for the furry wanderer. Community cats may not always be suited to a permanent home, they do need the love and care of the neighborhood to survive their street lives.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are likely 30-40 million independent "outdoor cats" in America alone. Some of them are pets allowed to wander free by their pet parents, but most are lost cats or feral cats born "in the wild," so to speak.

PrettyLitter How You Can Help a Community or Feral Cat

These free-roaming fur babies face numerous challenges in their lives in the great outdoors. Many don't make it out of their kitten years and, if they do, their average lifespan is only two years.

However, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), "If a cat is lucky enough to be in a colony that has a caretaker, he may reach 10 years. Community cats who live in a managed colony—a colony with a dedicated caretaker who provides spay/neuter services, regular feedings and proper shelter—can live a quite content life."

You've undoubtedly seen unclaimed felines wandering about your streets, and it's important to have an understanding of the challenges they face and how we can best help these fur babies.

The Challenges of a Community or Feral Cat

Because community kitties don't have a specific home to call their own — and for most, that's okay — they face different difficulties than our indoor fur babies. This doesn't mean their needs aren't worth our concern though. Community cats may have adapted to living on their own outdoors, but life is far from easy for them.

Specifically, community cats face:

  • Varying and extreme weather conditions — sleet, snow, rain, storms, summer heat, winter cold
  • Poor nutrition or possible starvation
  • Infection or illness
  • Attacks by other animals
  • Harm and elimination by vehicles

As reported by the ASPCA, "almost half of the kittens born outdoors die from disease, exposure or parasites before their first year."

These felines need help from the neighborhood and the community at large to survive the streets.

How Your Community Can Help

With so many community cats roaming free, there's the constant question of how local officials should handle the issue. The Humane Society of the United States reports, "Community cats are the most significant source of cat overpopulation in this country."

Research has shown that relocation and elimination are neither effective nor humane ways to address the situation. ASPCA and many other organizations endorse the
"Trap-Neuter-Return" method (TNR) as the best way to reduce overpopulation of community cats.

According to the ASPCA, the TNR method involves humanely trapping community cats and allowing trained vets to safely spay or neuter them. Kitties also get their proper rabies vaccinations before being returned to their cat colony.

Many cat communities are fortunate enough to live with the assurance that a colony caretaker will provide food and adequate shelter from the elements when needed.

If you're interested in becoming a caretaker, there are several resources from municipal leaders on managing community cats available through The Humane Society of the United States.

Small Steps Make a Big Difference

There're many ways that you as a community member can purr-sonally help these cats, as well.

For one, you could become a community colony caretaker. These friends of the felines help keep an eye on the kitties by providing food, water, and shelter when needed. They put out some extra cat food, open their garages on cold nights, or build community cat houses.

PrettyLitter How You Can Help a Community or Feral Cat

Also, you don't have to do it alone! Most community cat colonies have multiple caretakers. Recruit some feline-loving neighbors to team up with you and rotate responsibilities.

You can also contact your local shelter or animal foster groups to see where you can pitch in there. Another option is to team up with an organization that advocates for and assists community cats by donating time or resources.

Help your neighbors become better kitty friends by showing them patience, answering their questions, and helping to address their specific concerns.

Make sure your community understands the benefits of TNR and why this strategy is best for all members of the community – two- and four-legged alike.

Do you have a feral cat or community cat in your neighborhood? How have you gotten involved? We’d love to hear from you and learn more! Share your story below in the comments.




Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

Author



18 Responses

emily
emily

August 21, 2019

I met a lady via the nextdoor app who feeds a colony of cats when she sent out a plea for food. As I have a finicky cat- I had lots of partially opened cans in the freezer, plus dry food. From time to time, I bring her the food that my cat won’t eat. It’s not much, but the food bills for her are expensive. For us, it is a win-win, I don’t waste food and she can give it to needy cats. The last time I saw her, she said is she and her neighbor are going to start trapping them soon so they can be fixed. She has been able to rescue a few of the kittens and socialize them.

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

August 09, 2019

Hi @Ulla – There are several ways you can help these kitties, such as: Capturing the kitties and taking them to a low-cost neutering program in your area; Calling a local Catch-Neuter-Release program; or working together with your neighbors to find homes for the kitties who seem friendly and sociable.

You can find nearby programs on the ASPCA website here:
https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/low-cost-spayneuter-programs

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

August 09, 2019

Hi @Gail – I’m so sorry to hear your feline friend is missing. That’s heartbreaking. Cats are odd creatures, though, and sometimes they come back weeks or months later. In fact, my mother-in-law’s cat (who likes to come inside when it’s too hot out, but prefers the outdoors on most days) went missing for three months once! He wandered back one day when he was ready. I hope your furry guy comes back to you, too.

As for getting in touch with your CAR program, can you find an email address for them? Many businesses these days prefer email to phone calls. You may also be able to track down a physical office address and swing by to talk to someone in person.

Another option may be to capture the kitties yourself since they seem to trust and feel comfortable around you. Then you can take them to a low-cost neutering program in your area.

The ASPCA has a neutering center map you can search by your zip code.

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/low-cost-spayneuter-programs

Let us know if that helps you. :)

Ulla Berger
Ulla Berger

August 06, 2019

We have a mamma kitty and 3 of her babies in our neighborhood, they don’t belong to anybody, just wander around, but sleeps in a neighbors garage, and we help feeding them. How do I go about getting them spayed/neutered? I can’t afford to pay for it at a wets office? Please if anybody knows more info., I would love to hear from you.
Thanks :-)

kimberly schieven
kimberly schieven

August 06, 2019

I have taken in one feral but that is all I can handle with my indoor, now down to one. I donate to shelters as well. Other than that I pray for all of them daily hoping it may make a difference in some small way. My feral has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life…he is just so grateful and no longer running thru the neighborhood terrified.

Patricia Pointer
Patricia Pointer

August 02, 2019

I just got a letter today about an organization called “Feline Frenzy”. Contact
them about their organization. It’s great!

Marianne Milledge
Marianne Milledge

August 02, 2019

That you for this article. Our town does the trap, spay and release program and I am so tired of people asking why are they brought back. Why? Because they didn’t ask to be born but they were and this is the only home they know. Cats are attached to the place and not the person. One woman said they should be put down! Compassion should be shown to all creatures.

Kirsten Barger
Kirsten Barger

August 02, 2019

Yes I have a couple of cats that showed up that had been TNR’d already. Nobody in the area claimed responsibility for them, so I ended up being their colony caretaker. I’m actually trying to socialise them so that I can bring them indoors. I’ve worked in animal rescue before and trapped cats, but I’m a little stymied about how to trap them as they are a bonded pair and I don’t want one disappearing while I get the other one to the vet and then indoors. But, for now, they have food, water, shelter, and plenty of pack rats to hunt.

Gail
Gail

August 09, 2019

I have eight feral cats at the moment. One was neutered by the catch and release program. Another one who’d gone through the process has disappeared. He’s been around since he was a kitten, two years, so I think something happened to him. So one mother cat has never been caught and she’s had two litters, one of whom just had kittens herself, by her brother I might add. I’ve called the CAR program so many times of late and they don’t get back to me. I tried to get one of the females to get spayed before she had her kittens. They have told me in the past not to feed them because they’re wild animals” but I just can’t do that since they know I put food out for the original feral whose been around for several years.
I don’t know what to do at this point. I don’t know why they don’t get back to me. I can get two of the cats to be fixed, but not fast enough for the others.
Any ideas?

Carma Spence
Carma Spence

August 02, 2019

There was a Mama Cat who lived next door (died after being fixed) who had three litters. The only surviving kitty of the first litter is now our indoor-only cat and is a joy. Four of his younger siblings (two from each of the following two litters) were unable to find homes and still live outside, mostly in our neighbor’s yard. They feed them but can’t let them in because they have dogs. They are skinny (unlike our now pudgy kitty), but seem to be doing well. They won’t let me near them, but I have been able to get two of them to slow blink back at me. I wish I could take them in, but it was a stretch to get out landlord to allow us the one. I pray for their protection often.

Bette Sarnevitz
Bette Sarnevitz

August 02, 2019

I would be interested in helping care for the cats.

Sue
Sue

August 02, 2019

I have done TNR for many years. Feed, put out shelters, etc. I have rescued over 15 in the past. I have 2 left that I rescued at 4 weeks, they are now 12 years old. Still feed outside babies everyday. Two of my rescues were pregnant, each had 4 kittens. Rocket had 3 that survived and kept them until they were 7 months old and adopted out. Beautiful, looked like part Maine Coon. Pinkie (a dwarf) not a munchkin, but never grew past four months, had 4 and only 1 survived.

This year winter has been the worst and summer hotter then H, lost many to the heat and freezing weather. Lost many babies to this weather. I will do what I can, until I can’t anymore.

Meathead
Meathead

August 02, 2019

We’ve had 8 or 9 “outdoor” cats over the years. We currently have one mama, 4 half-grown kittens and two males that we provide food and water for. In the wintertime, we have covered cardboard boxes out of the weather for them to shelter in. We live in rural East Texas with 221 acres of woodland, so coyotes are also a danger that these face. Cats are predators, but to a coyote, they are lunch.
We currently have six cats in the house that are spayed or neutered. Three are from the shame litter and the other three are from separate litters. Our “litter box” is a Number 3 washtub that gets cleaned morning and evening.

larry m duncan
larry m duncan

August 02, 2019

I have fed outside cats, feral if you will, for nearly twenty years where I am. I spent a lot of money, time and effort into spaying the females since neutering the males proved ineffective but the expense and time was enormous so I settled for feeding, watering and helping them as much as I can. I have had as many as 40 eating on my porch but inbreeding, disease and whatever has dwindled the herd to four or five. Love them and have been feeding these for nearly ten years yet cannot touch them. Kind of sad but they are still mine and they know food is coming when I drive in the yard. Wouldn’t change a thing of what I do and have done. Love them all and always will!

Betty Casebeer
Betty Casebeer

August 02, 2019

My husband and I have rescued cats for well over 30 years. We trap them and tame them if they are young enough to work with, then find them good homes through our local humane society. If they are too old or too wild, we trap them, get their shots and spay or neuter them, then release them back into their familiar area. We always have extra cats in our household that we are working with.

Annie Laing
Annie Laing

August 02, 2019

My hubby and I feed the feral cats on our block have named 3 of them and basically they know their names. We r building them an outdoor place to be warm during the winter. One of the feral cats even comes into our home to eat our cats food

Connie Mckoy
Connie Mckoy

August 02, 2019

This is how I got all my cats. Feeding and providing a cat house with a heater in my garage. I cannot bring anymore in but I feed and provide water and warm places to sleep in my garage. I love animals!

Jean Jenn
Jean Jenn

August 02, 2019

Many so-called feral cats are actually lost/ abandoned/ “dumped” former pets. They CAN be brought back into homes to live with people happily.

True feral cats learn young to fear humans and usually won’t allow themselves to be touched. However, they certainly deserve to live as do all other animals.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Get started now.

Join other happy cats and their owners who are using PrettyLitter!

I Want PrettyLitter
"I can't believe how spoiled I've become with this litter. It makes dealing with cat excrement so much easier! I love Pretty Litter. A lot."
G. Gregory, Angier N.C.